Happy New Year!
As 2016 was coming to an end, I spent some time thinking about things, as I am sure we all do. I had some thoughts about how much our lives are shaped by our perspective.
First, there is what I am calling the mirror vs. window perspective. Viewing our life like we are looking in a mirror isn't always bad. It is important to examine ourselves from time to time; however, it can also make things look bigger than they are. And no matter what, when we look in a mirror, we can't see any further than our reflection. It is easy, when looking in a mirror, to get stuck on every little thing we don't like. That blemish (problem) looks bigger every time we look at it. It never seems to go away, and the more we try to cover it up, the more we notice it. When we look into a mirror, it is nearly impossible to focus on anything other than ourselves.
This year, as I was driving one day, it hit me. When we view life through a window, we look outward. We can focus on the needs of others, the love of others, the beauty of others. When we can tear ourselves away from the mirror and look out the window, our perspective is totally transformed. When we can't see those "blemishes" we don't focus on them. That does not mean the "blemish" isn't there; it doesn't mean that we should not take steps to take care of the "blemish." It just means we don't allow the "blemish" to control us. When we look through the window, we find other things to focus on.
Second, there are those false perspectives that we form by watching others. Many people fault social media for these false perspectives. We look at the pictures of others, the posts of others, and we assume we know the whole story. How many of us really put it all out there on social media, and how do we really feel about those who do? Social media is just that--social--but it is easy to get wrapped up in all that we see. However, it is not just social media that can create these false perspectives. I mean, think about it, the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" has been around long before social media. We can develop a false perspective just by observing someone at church, at work or in the neighborhood. We can look at the car they drive, the clothes they wear, and so many other things and draw all kinds of conclusions.
We can draw conclusions and make assumptions that lead us to believe we are too different to be friends. We can look at another person and believe their life is better than ours, less difficult than ours. It is so easy to believe erroneous information about other people, and it can prevent people from getting to know one another. When I look at another mom and only see the good stuff, I can allow myself to feel like I don't measure up. When I see another family having what looks to be a perfect night out at dinner, I can start wishing that my family dinner could be as nice as theirs. And on and on. The truth is, we don't know what goes on inside anyone else's home. I am pretty sure we all do it, though. we allow our perspective of others to be skewed by our assumptions, which, in turn, skews our perspective of our own lives! It is definitely a vicious cycle.
Finally, we must be careful about how much we allow our perspective to control our lives. I know I have said this before, and I will say it again and again because I think it is so important. Everyone has stuff. Some people put all their stuff out there, but most of the time, people keep their stuff hidden, their embarrassing stuff, their hurtful stuff--anything that they believe would make them look like less to others. The truth of the matter is that your stuff, my stuff can be helpful to others, and we can be helped by other people and their own stuff. We learn from our stuff. We grow from our stuff. And God puts people in our lives that we can help and that can help us. But if we are determined to keep all our stuff hidden, to appear to all the world like the perfect family, then we will miss out on the opportunity to serve and to be served. We need to learn not to trust our perspectives of others, at least not until we actually know them. We need to learn how to balance what we put out there. Obviously, some things are private, but when we don't share out of fear, we are cheating ourselves.
Let's be real in 2017. Let's get to know each other and discover how we can help each other. Let's remember that we aren't meant to take this journey alone. Let's share our stuff. Let's remember that we are all good at something and we all struggle with much more than anyone realizes. Let's do this thing called life and have a great year!